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AP source: Steve Yzerman hired to be Lightning GM

SHARE AP source: Steve Yzerman hired to be Lightning GM

The Tampa Bay Lightning, who have missed the playoffs for three years in a row in a slide since their 2004 Stanley Cup championship, have hired former Red Wings great Steve Yzerman as the new general manager, The Associated Press has learned.

A person familiar with the decision confirmed the hiring Tuesday on the condition of anonymity because the team hadn't made the announcement. The Lightning said its new GM would be introduced at a 3 p.m. ET news conference.

Yzerman has worked as a vice president for Detroit, the only team he played for during his Hall of Fame career. He recently led Canada to men's hockey gold as Hockey Canada executive director at the Vancouver Games.

Last month, Tampa Bay's new owner, Jeff Vinik, fired coach Rick Tocchet and general manager Brian Lawton after the struggling franchise missed the playoffs again. The GM's two-year contract was due to expire in June.

Yzerman was not going to get a chance to be Detroit's GM any time soon because two executives above him, Ken Holland and Jim Nill, are expected to sign long-term deals.

"I enjoy working and being a part of this organization and helping out where I can," Yzerman said earlier this month after Detroit was eliminated in the second round of the playoffs. "Someday, I'd love to run a team and if the right opportunity came along, I would consider it. I'm in no hurry to leave. If something good came along, great."

The 45-year-old Yzerman was born in Cranbrook, British Columbia, and he became one of the best two-way players in NHL history. He won three Stanley Cups and remains one of the most familiar faces of the Red Wings, where he was a longtime captain.

Yzerman experienced the high of helping Canada win gold in 2002 and the disappointment of a fourth-place finish at the 1998 Nagano Games in two of his eight international competitions as a player. As GM, Yzerman led Canada to gold at the 2007 world championship and silver the next year before focusing on the Olympics.

Yzerman was chosen to lead Canada's quest for gold after his predecessor, Wayne Gretzky, failed to help the team repeat four years ago. He made all the right moves at the Olympics, assembling a perfectly blended roster that gave the hockey-crazed country what it wanted.

Before the puck dropped in February, San Jose Sharks center Joe Thornton said he believed Yzerman's leadership would help Canada reach its gold-or-bust goal.

"As soon as Stevie walks in the room, he has a presence like Wayne and Mario (Lemieux)," Thornton said.

With the Lightning, Yzerman will inherit a team that went 34-36-12 last season and has made three coaching changes in two years. Since winning the 2004 championship, Tampa Bay has not advanced beyond the first round of the playoffs.

Vinik, a Boston financier who purchased the team from a group that owned the Lightning less than two years, is seeking stability after watching the club climb into playoff contention in early February, only to fade after the Olympic break. The team's highest-paid player, captain Vincent Lecavalier, has a no-trade clause in his contract and has said he'd like to help the club get back to the playoffs.

The biggest bright spot last season was the development of Steven Stamkos. The top pick in the 2008 NHL draft scored his 51st goal in the season finale.